If a Coroner has reason to suspect that a person died in certain circumstances, he or she is under a duty to investigate that death. The Coroners and Justice Act lists the circumstances which require a Coroner to investigate a death. These circumstances are when:
a. the deceased died a violent
b. the cause of death is unknown
c. the deceased died while in custody or otherwise in state detention
A Coroner has a broad range of discretion in deciding what will constitute a “violent” or “unnatural” death. For instance, in circumstances where a person has died of a “natural” cause such as a heart attack or cancer, a Coroner may find them “unnatural” if there is reason to suspect that this natural condition may have been triggered by or accelerated by, for example, inappropriate treatment or exposure to a dangerous material such as asbestos.
The suggestion of human fault may turn what would otherwise be a “natural” death into an “unnatural” one and require a Coroner’s investigation.
The Coroners and Justice Act also requires a Coroner to investigate all deaths which occur in state detention, this includes all deaths in prison and deaths which occur when a person is detained under the Mental Health Act.
For more information please contact Suzanne White on 020 7650 1200 at Leigh Day for information and support about inquests.